TWN Info Service on Climate Change (Nov11/03)
22 November 2011
Third World Network

Kyoto Protocol should not be held hostage to a new treaty - India
Published in SUNS #7265 dated 22 November 2011

Geneva, 21 Nov (Meena Raman) - India's Environment and Forests' Minister, Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan, has said categorically that a new long-term binding agreement cannot and should not be a quid pro quo for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (KP).

The Minister was responding to recent positions taken by the European Union and other countries who are Parties to the KP that they are willing to make commitments for further emission cuts under a second commitment period only if there was a decision in Durban next month, for a new legally binding agreement post-2020 involving all "major economies" or "major emitters".

"A new legally binding agreement is not required for climate change talks to continue because the framework based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities already exists in the form of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol (KP)," said Natarajan at a media briefing in New Delhi on 17 November.

She said that there "is an insistent attempt (by developed countries) to hold the KP decision hostage to a decision on a new legally binding agreement."

"Publicly the developed countries Parties to KP attribute their inability to accede to the second commitment period because they say they have lost faith in the Kyoto Protocol as a tool for fighting climate change. The second argument is that developing countries are emitting much more and that KP countries don't account for more than 26% of global emissions. But this is logic inverted on its head, because KP Parties still do represent the largest part of the stock of global emissions responsible for climate change and they are also endowed with the required capabilities," added Natarajan.

Saying that the "KP reflects a regime to address climate change that respects the principle of historical responsibilities and respective capabilities," the Minister stressed that this is why it was important for the KP to continue.

Natarajan also expressed concerns that "the effort in the last few years, in sharp contrast, has been aimed at giving the principle of historical emissions a quiet burial and refashioning a regime of actions that are anchored in current rather than cumulative emissions."

"Emissions are going to be blowing around for 150 years and if international commitments are given a burial on the basis of such one sided and unilateral interpretations of legal obligations, I think it is unlikely that we will be able to generate confidence in the international process. My fervent hope is that better sense prevails in Durban," she added.

The Minister recalled that at Cancun "we agreed to transparency arrangements in a bid to create mutual trust. We really walked the extra mile even though these were not mandated under the Bali Action Plan. The objective of such arrangements was not to set up comparability of Annex-1 commitments and non-Annex-1 actions but it was a confidence building measure to build confidence in the developing country actions."

The Minister was referring to the Cancun decision agreed to last year where developing countries agreed to the conduct of international consultations and analysis (ICA) of their mitigation actions, even if these actions were not supported by finance or technology transfer from developed countries.

Natarajan also said that "legal options are to be discussed only when the nature of outcomes reached on the two tracks of the Bali Road Map are available."

"In Cancun we had already agreed for a process of review of global goal of climate stabilisation in terms of temperature rise and the review is to be undertaken in 2013-15 in the light of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that is due in 2014," she added.

The Minister also emphasized that developed countries were measuring their environmental actions in competitive terms.

She said that "even as climate change has climbed to the top of the political agenda of nations, it has acquired deep competitive and economy policy overtones."

"Increasingly our partners in the developed world who are mandated by law to take the lead in mitigation are measuring their environmental actions in competitive terms - that is, their actions vis-a-vis the actions of developing countries and the impact of their actions on domestic sectors are sought to be protected at the cost of the global goal of stabilising the climate. So we need to be careful about this trend because it just does not augur well for global cooperation. Once it becomes competitive and becomes about protecting your domestic industry I don't think that they can possibly keep their eye on the global goal of climate stabilisation," warned the Minister.

Appealing for the Durban conference not to be caught in "competitive politics", she urged all Parties to keep their eyes firmly on extending the KP.

"Successive formulations about MRV (measuring, reporting and verification of developing country mitigation actions) in the recent negotiations are indicative of a mindset that is guided by competition and climate change is being seen not as a project that requires global collaboration but one that only needs competitive adjustment in the light of what one partner country does vis-a-vis another partner country," she said.

"At Bali, the concept of MRV was introduced to facilitate measurement of developed country actions for providing support. In Copenhagen this was converted into arrangements for transparency. The Cancun agreements formalised these agreements into provisions of ICA and IAR (international assessment and review of developed country mitigation)."

"So what I am really trying to say is that there is a continuous chain of negotiations that seek parallelism between the actions of developed and developing countries," the Minister added further.

Referring to the recent announcement of the EU to impose a carbon tax or penalty on international civil aviation under the EU-Emissions Trading Scheme, Natarajan said that "of late, unilateral measures have appeared on the international scene that clearly constitute a disguised restriction on international trade. This is a clear point to the extent to which unilateral measures can be used to support the competitive agenda."

For developing countries like India, the Minister said that the KP "is not an issue of competitive actions", but "is a substantive issue of discharging historical responsibilities. It is also the basis for comparability of targets and actions of all developed countries. It is very important that robust mitigation commitments are adopted by developed country parties on the basis of principle of common but differentiated responsibilities."

Emphasizing that developing countries are not lagging behind in climate action, Natarajan said that "legal treaties between countries have to be credible and there has to be a science and responsibility based response of the global community to climate change. We in the developing world are by no means lagging behind. We are not spoilers, we are not spoiling the party, we are not refusing to cooperate ...we have walked and gone to cooperate to reduce our carbon footprints and go forward with all kinds of adaptation within our own countries. Some of the recent international studies, for example, like the one published by Stockholm Environment Institute have concluded that the impact of developing country actions and pledges in absolute terms is more than that of developed countries."

"So at least until 2020, developing countries including India will be contributing much more to the entire problem of mitigation than developed countries will and that is the extent of our willingness to contribute and try and solve this problem. This is really ironical considering the fact that the Convention requires developed countries to actually take [the] lead in mitigation and given this scenario it is absolutely critical that developing countries seek and obtain unqualified adherence of developed countries KP Parties to the second commitment period. Failure in this regard will endanger the ambition levels of Parties and will also result in a regime that is inequitable, unfair and unacceptable to us," she added.

To ensure that the evolving regime remains ambitious and equitous, the Minister said that "India has proposed three agenda issues for the consideration of the Conference of Parties at Durban, and these relate to equity, trade actions and intellectual property rights."

"A framework for equity and equitable access to global atmospheric space needs to be established before the burden sharing for climate stabilising is discussed. Protecting our economies against use of border trade measures is equally important given the propensity of developed countries to use these measures unilaterally. Similarly, technology is key to achieving low emission growth for a country like India and in the rush to reach decisions at Cancun these issues were not discussed to the fullest extent that we would have liked to be discussed," she elaborated further.

The Minister also emphasized the difference between "livelihood sustainability and lifestyle sustainability" and said that this difference is "between the ground and the sky".

In relation to "sustainability", Natarajan said that "for hundreds and millions in this country, the key issue is development of livelihood and livelihood sustainability as opposed to lifestyle sustainability and that is what concerns me at the most fundamental level. You can't teach a starving man the value of an Atkins' diet and to someone who has no lights at home (millions of our countrymen don't today) - we just can't say sustainability entails sacrifice and until and unless [the] right technology is found we have to cut back on power generation and fossil fuels."

Noting that there are no shortcuts in attaining sustainable development, the Minister said "it is not a polemical intervention but a very real question and one that any government minister or public official in India has to deal with every day. To believe that this idea cannot and will not influence our perception of where we stand and how we view climate change is contrived because it does influence me. Sustainable development and environment protection are not zero sum games - they are not mathematical or statistical games - cuts/targets/quotas work in an emergency situation but in the long term we need to change the paradigm".